Sunday, June 6, 2010

And in this week in self-congratulation....

Not to pick on people, but this is what the f*** I'm talking about when I talk about self-congratulation:

Lagos is suddenly a hot new destination for writers from all over the world – courtesy of the exploits and efforts of writers like Adichie. Her four-year-old annual Creative Writing workshop, sponsored by Nigeria’s oldest and biggest beer company (which before now appeared to be more at home with sponsoring music festivals and talent hunts) has brought Jason Cowley, Nathan Englander, Binyavanga Wainaina, Jackie Kay, Doreen Baingana and Dave Eggers to Lagos, to facilitate writing sessions. This year Ama Ata Aidoo, Niq Mhlongo and Chika Unigwe are the guest writers.

In July it will be the turn of Helon Habila to lead creative writing workshops in Lagos and Abuja. The Habila workshops will be sponsored by Fidelity Bank, which sponsored the first two editions of Chimamanda’s workshop, before Nigerian Breweries Plc took over

Somehow, in the 150 million strong throng of people we have, we managed to find, oh, 10 writers who have gained international recognition! Wow! See how awesome we are?

You know, I think I'm going to make this a feature on this site: Self-Congratulation Watch. It's not so much that this article is wrong; We do have a literary revival in Nigeria. But it doesn't require substantial work on the part of Nigerian leaders, it doesn't propel our people/country forward, and we shouldn't get drunk on this moonshine that we intoxicate ourselves with on how amazing we are, believing in our exceptionalism that we have done, frankly, nothing to deserve.

Cue the "we can't focus on the negative" comments on my twitter/email. Whatever. My point is this: It's nice to have Adichies and Okris et al, but we have a tendency to focus on these feel-good stories and use them as a reason to desensitize ourselves to the myriad of very serious issues we have to deal with. We need to keep our eyes on the prize, people. We have not arrived.

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